Saturday, October 3, 2009

China flaunts visa power

I WONDER :  As always, UPA taken by surprise and its time for govt to regret once more!

As always, UPA taken by surprise!

That the Chinese Embassy here has started issuing visas in the form of separate stapled sheets to those from Jammu & Kashmir wanting to visit China is a move that has been clearly designed to provoke India further. Although Chinese Embassy officials have tried their best to play down the matter saying that these were valid visas and that it is the Indian immigration authorities’ problem that they were not being accepted, the message behind the move is too conspicuous to be overlooked. China had recently started issuing these ‘new’ visas to those hailing from Arunachal Pradesh, which it considers a part of ‘south Tibet’. That these visas are now being issued to those from Jammu & Kashmir could only mean one thing — Beijing questions the status of Jammu & Kashmir as a State of the Union of India. Whichever way one looks at it, and no matter how much of a sophisticated spin Beijing tries to put on its decision to issue these ‘new’ visas, the bottom line is China has decided to undertake a campaign aimed at frustrating India on several fronts. The Chinese military’s incursions and Beijing’s stance on border related issues are just part of this elaborate campaign. So are China’s efforts to stonewall India at various international fora and Beijing’s aggressive drive to acquire naval bases in South Asia to encircle India. The ‘new’ visas are yet another Chinese ploy to get India worked up.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that China has a specific strategy vis-à-vis India. It is also becoming evident that New Delhi has little or no clue as to what that is. This can be gauged by the awkward responses the Government has been making. On the Chinese incursions, the Government first tried to play down the intrusions, then said they were nothing new and that the media was guilty of ‘hyping’ things up, and finally meekly added that our armed forces were capable of meeting any challenge. On the visa issue, all that our Ministry of External Affairs could muster up is an expression of “justified concern” to the Chinese Government. One would have thought that something far stronger would have been in order — perhaps a tit-for-tat visa policy. The shaky responses to the provocations betray a sense of hesitancy on the part of the UPA Government to take Beijing head on. We would rather indulge in ‘constructive’ diplomatic engagements to promote bilateral relations in an “all round manner”.

The truth is it is not that New Delhi is faltering in its response to China but that it doesn’t know how to respond in the first place. We have no clear-cut China policy to speak of. As a result we are sceptical of doing anything that can later turn out to be counter-productive. The reason why we are in such a dilemma is because most of our foreign policy attention is focussed on Pakistan. It is because of our obsession with Pakistan, and Pakistan alone, that we have completely ignored China and have created a situation where we risk jeopardising our traditional strategic ties with Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Bangladesh. Had the Government given equal attention to all the countries in our neighbourhood, perhaps we would have been in a better position to tackle China and its tactics much better. It is time the Government gets on the ball and starts diversifying its foreign policy energies and formulating a concrete China policy. For, if things continue the way they are, there is no telling what other surprises Beijing might slip by us.

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